Lisp is not the last word
Ken Tilton asked
: What is up the power continuum from Lisp?
I don’t have a ready answer. However, just because I don’t have an answer doesn’t mean I don’t believe there’s an answer. It could be that Lisp is a little like Democracy. It could be the least powerful programming language possible, excepting all of the others invented so far. But you know what? I have faith we can do better
Ken doesn’t say there isn’t a language up the power continuum. And I won’t say we have already invented one: like Ken, I’ll pose a question: what law of computer science places a limit on the power continuum at Lisp?
G.J. Chaitin explains his proofs of Kurt Godel’s incompleteness theorem and Alan Turing’s “halting problem” in computation. Chaitin’s creative use of Lisp in mathematics and fervent belief that no theorem is proof against new analysis are welcome shots of espresso.
Human history is chock-a-block full of inventions and practices that were considered for decades or even centuries to be the final word, the ultimate expression and implementation of ideas. And then someone came along and demolished everything. Geocentricity. Heliocentricity. Newtonian celestial mechanics. Light as a wave. Light as a particle. Three dimensions. Uniform space. Euclidian geometry.
Some of these new ideas took years to take root while the establishment derided them as “not even wrong.” Others were so obviously right they immediately displaced what had come before. We might now have invented a more powerful language. Or we might have invented one but not realize it yet. But who can say that we haven’t invented a more powerful language and will never do so?
If you believe there is
a power continuum, if you are not so obsessed with Turing Completeness and theoretical equivalence, what is the argument that it has any limit whatsoever, let alone that its limit is Lisp?
I believe that the only language that is affixed to the top of the power continuum is Blub
. For everyone whose imagination soars above the ceiling of their laboratory, Lisp is not the last word.
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